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Karen White: An Excerpt
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
June 2018
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
June 2018

This month our guest editor is New York Times bestselling author Karen White. Below is an excert from her new book, Dreams of Falling, available for purchase today! Purchase here.

Excerpt from Dreams of Falling

Ceecee stood halfway between her kitchen door and the detached garage, retracing Ivy’s steps and trying to figure out what Ivy had been searching for. She’d studied the antique desk, now stripped of its finish, the drawers pulled out and stacked—a gutted fish with only skeletal remains. She reexamined the pantry and the open kitchen drawers, trying to see whether anything was missing. To find any message Ivy had been trying to leave her.

The more Ceecee didn’t see, the more worried she became. She’d turned to head back into the garage when she heard the cough of an exhaust pipe and saw a plume of black smoke billowing down her long driveway. She knew who it was before she caught sight of the outrageous orange hair reflecting the afternoon sun, or the faded and peeling paint of a once–powder blue Volkswagen Beetle, circa 1970.

Bitty had been too old to own a Beetle in the seventies and was definitely too old for one now. She’d always said it was the only car built to her small scale, but she looked ridiculous, especially with that hair and her penchant for rainbow-hued flowing robe things that made her look like she’d been in a preschool finger paint fight. Perpetually single but with a swath of brokenhearted suitors left in her wake, retired art teacher Bitty lived her bohemian lifestyle on Folly Beach, earning her living as a painter, with occasional intrusions into Ceecee’s life.

They’d known each other too long for the intrusions to be all unwelcome. Once, according to Ceecee’s mother, they’d been thick as thieves, she and Bitty and Margaret, inseparable since they were schoolgirls in smocked dresses and patent leather Mary Janes. But time changed all things, oxidizing friendships like old copper pots, so they no longer saw their reflections in each other’s faces.

As Bitty drew near, the clownlike horn of the car beeped twice, making Ceecee jump, as she was sure Bitty had intended. She heard the crank of the parking brake, and then Bitty was running toward her, nimble as a teenager, her arms outstretched. It wasn’t until she was in Bitty’s embrace that Ceecee remembered the security of an old friendship. Like an ancient sweater with moth holes that you still wear because you remember how it once kept you warm.

Bitty looked up into Ceecee’s face. “You look tired,” she said.

“And you smell like cigarette smoke.” Ceecee frowned at the bright blue eye shadow and round spots of rouge on Bitty’s cheeks. Her makeup hadn’t changed since the sixties. “If I wore as much makeup as you, I’d still look awful, but I’d at least cover up my tiredness.”

Bitty dropped her hands. “Good to see you, too. What do you think has happened to our Ivy?”

Our Ivy. Those two words stirred up the old anger. Ivy didn’t belong to Bitty, no matter how much she wished she did. Some would argue that Ivy didn’t belong to Ceecee, either, but Ceecee disagreed. She’d raised Ivy, and Ivy called her Mama. That was as much proof as she’d ever need.

“You’ll be wanting coffee, I suspect,” Ceecee said, walking back toward the kitchen and leaving Bitty to handle her bags. Bitty was the only person their age who still drank fully leaded coffee and could fall asleep and stay asleep at will. She’d been that way since high school, when they’d all started drinking coffee just because Margaret did, and it was as irritating then as it was now. “And no smoking inside.”

She was at the kitchen door before she heard the sound of another car. “It’s Larkin,” she said, although it was obvious from Bitty’s vigorous arm waving that she’d already recognized the driver. Ceecee said it again, as if to claim ownership, and moved to stand next to Bitty. When Larkin’s tall form unfolded from the driver’s side, she wished she’d kept walking toward the car so she didn’t seem to be making Larkin choose between them.

Then Bitty was running toward the beautiful young woman with the honey gold hair that was just like her grandmother Margaret’s, and both Bitty and Larkin were laughing and crying, as if at a joke Ceecee hadn’t been part of.

But then Larkin turned toward Ceecee and smiled, and Ceecee put her arms around her before holding her at arm’s length and shaking her head.

“You’re too thin,” she said. “A strong wind might blow you away. I’m going to make some of your favorites while you’re home—my sweet corn bread and fried chicken.”

“It’s good to see you, too, Ceecee. Any word from Mama?”

Her bright blue Darlington eyes searched Ceecee’s face, and again Ceecee felt like she was looking at Margaret. Dear, sweet, impossibly beautiful Margaret. Never “Maggie” or “Mags” or “Meg”—always “Margaret.” Margaret Darlington of Carrowmore, the former rice plantation on the North Santee River. The Darlingtons were as shrewd as they were good-looking, their luck legend. Until it wasn’t.

Ceecee squeezed Larkin’s shoulders, feeling the bones, sharp as blades, beneath her hands. “No, honey. I’m so sorry. Nothing yet. Let’s go inside and get you something to eat, and I’ll call your daddy to let him know you got here safely.”

(Excerpt Credit: From DREAMS OF FALLING by Karen White. Reprinted by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2018 by Karen White.)

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